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July 6, 2008

Gov. Blagojevich urges families to sign up to stay cool, safe, and healthy this summer
$10 million available this summer for energy assistance program, beginning Monday

CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today urged Illinoisans to apply for help with their summer energy bills, beginning Monday, July 7.  The Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) will distribute up to $10 million in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds to low-income families to assist them with their utility bills, so they can keep their air conditioners and fans running as temperatures rise over the summer.
“In Illinois, the summer can become extremely hot and humid very quickly, and that can be dangerous for seniors, people with disabilities and small children.  And during these difficult economic times when energy costs continue to rise, it can be very expensive to run air conditioners and fans to stay cool,” said Governor Blagojevich.  “That is why I am urging low-income families and seniors to apply for help through LIHEAP so that they can stay safe and healthy over the hot summer months.”
As part of the 2008 Keep Cool Illinois campaign launched by the Blagojevich Administration earlier this summer, low income residents can apply for assistance with their summer energy bills starting Monday, July 7.  Governor Blagojevich has authorized the use of up to $10 million in assistance, which includes a $3 million contribution from Ameren to be used for cooling assistance. 
LIHEAP will make electricity bill payments on behalf of seniors, people with disabilities, families with young children and people who have medical conditions that may be aggravated by extreme heat.  Utility bill payments are made on behalf of households with incomes of up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level.
“Many Illinoisans suffer through summer's heat and humidity, but it can be especially dangerous for low-income families who may not be able to use air conditioning due to the high cost of energy,” said HFS Director Barry S. Maram.  “HFS is helping our most vulnerable residents pay for the cost of cooling their homes through the LIHEAP program, and I would like to thank our friends at Ameren for their contribution that will allow us to help as many families as possible.  I encourage people to log onto www.keepcool.illinois.gov to find out about these and other available state resources.”
LIHEAP is a state- and federally-funded energy assistance program that assists households with incomes of up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level.  A single-person household can qualify with a monthly income of up to $1,282, and a family of four can qualify with an income of $2,614.  Payments will be paid directly to the household’s electric utility. Applications are processed through a network of 35 community action agencies throughout the state.  These agencies accept applications on a first-come, first-served basis from eligible households.
Blagojevich Administration officials launched the 2008 Keep Cool Illinois campaign and Website in June to help families stay cool, healthy and safe this summer.  A comprehensive, statewide effort, the purpose of Keep Cool Illinois, is to inform Illinois residents, especially the elderly, families with small children and persons with disabilities, how to prevent heat-related health problems, reduce their utility bills and participate in summer activities safely. 
The Keep Cool Illinois campaign includes the www.keepcool.illinois.gov Web site, a statewide network of cooling centers, targeted outreach to vulnerable senior citizens, energy assistance programs, public service announcements and fire safety and water safety tips to help families across Illinois prepare for the summer.

The statewide, multi-agency and group campaign involves the Illinois Departments on Aging (IDoA), Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), Human Services (IDHS), Public Health (IDPH), the Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA).


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